Commitment to Culturally Responsive Evaluation: Principles and Practices

By Jenna Rush posted 03-06-2020 03:03 PM


Contributed by: Katrina Bledsoe and Gabriela Garcia

Keeping cultural responsiveness at the forefront of our work is a key component to broadening participation in STEM fields. With that in mind, we wanted to reflect, and continue to build upon the knowledge and resources shared by Network members at different points in time. We asked Katrina Bledsoe and Gabriela Garcia to highlight ideas, resources, and strategies shared at their session titled “Culturally Responsive Evaluation: Learning from Practiceduring the NSF INCLUDES Convening in May 2019.

During the session, Katrina and Gabriela shared that what drives their work is their commitment to ensuring
diverse and unique perspectives are surfaced, valued, and appropriately addressed within evaluated programs, initiatives, and projects. One approach to ensure that they stay true to this commitment is the use of a Culturally Responsive Evaluation (CRE) framework. Gabriela and Katrina shared six principles they found to be consistent throughout the CRE literature [see textbox].

They emphasized that these principles are:
  • not independent of one another but are intertwined in the application of CRE;
  • meant to be a guide and not a linear step-by-step of how to do CRE work; and
  • a representation of their understanding of the literature on CRE.

CRE Practice

Putting CRE into practice is not one-size-fits-all. Again, as Katrina and Gabriela point out, while there are many published recommendations for practice, there is no definitive, universal template, protocol, or rubric for the design and implementation of CRE. However, given that all human action is situated in and influenced by culture, evaluations that ignore culture cannot be considered adequate, accurate, or credible. They note that there are resources that can provide guidance and support concerning the implementation of CRE. For instance, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne’s Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) is an organization dedicated to helping researchers, evaluators, and program designers better understand and use the principles of CRE.

Implications for Broadening Participation in STEM
The central focus of CRE is on understanding how culture is positioned in the evaluation, and how the influence of cultural norms, practices, and ethnicity are integrated into the process. Cultural responsiveness reminds us that when issues are framed in using one perspective and experience, it often ignores other experiences of the marginalized, as well as those with multiple identities and experiences.

Broadening participation in STEM requires organizations and funders to approach the problem creatively, innovatively, collaboratively and with an eye towards being responsive to the culture and context of the people involved in and influenced by STEM. Incorporating culture and context into an evaluation, not only helps in accurately representing underrepresented groups in STEM fields but also increases the validity and reliability of the evaluation. Again, there is no one right approach in integrating CRE into broadening participation projects. But there are certain guidelines and frameworks that can be used in designing and implementing an evaluation. Gabriela and Katrina have identified a few resources below that can help you think about CRE as well as paths to take in integrating the tenets of CRE into evaluation. Using a culturally responsive approach supports the vision of NSF INCLUDES by bringing together dedicated partners, finding approaches that work, and building a nation where everyone has equitable opportunities in STEM.

Key Resources on CRE
  • Gabriela and Katrina developed a practice brief on Culturally Responsive Practices and Evaluation.
  • Although perceptions of CRE can sometimes be limited in scope, usually to ethnicity and/or race, CRE should be considered broadly. For instance, panelists shared other culturally based perspectives. Heather Thiry, the evaluator for CAHSI, discussed the importance of using student voices and centralizing first language within the evaluation. Heather provided some great background on her experiences with the CAHSI Alliance.
  • Justin Piff of Equal Measure described the challenges that can occur when the needs of a Broadening Participation initiative are not always congruent with the needs of the stakeholder community. He further discussed some of the strategies they have used in Collective Impact Initiatives and some of the key components needed (see the article, Filling the Gaps in Collective Impact)
  • Linda Thurston, Professor Emeritus of Kansas State University, talked about not only ensuring accessibility to people with disabilities but also what is needed to ensure equity in accessibility (see her blog post, DOVP Week: Linda Thurston on Knowing your Stakeholders)

Two sectors of panelists were highlighted at the this session during the 2019 NSF INCLUDES National Network Convening. The first sector represented was on Culturally Responsive Evaluation and included Ivory Toldson from Howard University, QEM, and the Coordination Hub; Linda Thurston from Kansas State University and Heather Thiry from the University of Colorado, Boulder. The second sector represented was on Collective Impact which included Justin Piff and Eve Weiss from Equal Measure and the Coordination Hub.